Then Came Each Actor Upon His Ass
And it was good.
So very good.
And each had food
And unto himself
The feedbag was full
The groaning board groaned
The drink was abundant
The water trough quenched
The wine barrel quenched
And it was good
And so the first day passed.
The sea plays a big part for Alison Alexandra in my manuscript There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Stones Were Not So Smooth. This is at the beginning of a night that is going to last a long time.
There seems to be a touch of mist coming over the ocean as Alison Alexandra looks from the windows of her prow of a ship house on the top of her cliff. Well, she calls it her cliff and no one – yet – has said ‘nay’. But then, she thinks of it as her ocean, so what is someone going to do with that?
She turns the lights out in her prow of a ship room and settles into her comfortable winged chair. The sun is in its last minute of setting and Alison Alexandra concentrates on the positions of the ships settling in for the night. There are always ships that have no space for a berth until the next day. One or two always seem to have to wait until the day after that.
The vagaries of shipping and commerce, and the whims of an erratic sea, can only be predicted with moderate success. The tides and the winds and the atmospheric pressures high and low make merry over and under the endless horizons. They whirl and they twirl and they scud and skip with gay abandon. ‘Catch them and predict them?’ – well, Alison Alexandra knows better than that.
As it is, her sea eye – well-honed after these many years of coastal watching – is certain the touch of mist that kisses the top of the waves in a most flirtatious manner is deciding whether or not to settle in for the night and become mistress to sea and ships and those swabbies who – oh, so quickly – will be told that the watch must be doubled.
No matter that they are within sight of shore and already have their imaginations stirred by what will be offered at fine establishments such as The Tugboat Wharf And Seafood Lounge with its All You Can Eat Beef Buffet and waitresses who are never going to give them the attention they crave but will still be a damn good source to stroke the imagination and then they can hit the streets and hope to find some pliable bodies with whom to hit the sheets if only by the hour.
Some summers ago, I was walking along a river, and heard the strangest noise. It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should.
A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river. First there were small rolling noises as the branch went through its hands, and then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’, and then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.
This went on fifteen minutes or so, then the beaver and I both heard noises in the water. We both saw another beaver approaching.
The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which).
They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and seemed to sniff each other, then they swam in different directions.
This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver which had approached rubbed noses once again, and made the bawling sounds one more time.
I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg).
The sun was setting and they became difficult to see. However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour, and one headed to the other shore.
For me it was an experience of a lifetime.
To be fair, he went out of his way to tell me he was not Jesus.
It was nearly the first thing he said. But he looked like Jesus. Well – you know – he looked like the depictions of Jesus by all the people who have never seen Him. And it doesn’t matter that, as far as I know, there is not one indication in the Bible of what Jesus looked like. Except that is kind of odd. Tall, short, plump, long face – you’d think there would be something. But he looked like what we accept Jesus looked like.
He was standing on the boardwalk of Halifax harbour. It was late evening in the off season. There were few passerbys, either Samaritans or Levites or priests.
And he smelled like Jesus. That is, he smelled like Jesus if Jesus had partaken of a lot of that water he had turned to wine for the wedding. A lot of it. I suppose Jesus would have been as cheerful, too.
“Look!” He pointed toward a dock jutting into the water. “Crosses.”
I turned to look.
“One.” He started counting. “Two. Three!” He sounded pleased. “Four.” He sounded disappointed.
If you looked with forethought, you could decipher some large crosses among the wooden posts and boards which made the docks. Not that I’m sure I could point them out to anyone else.
He said that crosses were important.
I did not argue.
He said that people look down on the disadvantaged.
I did not argue.
He said that people called them names and that they were really as good as anyone else and why did people make fun of them and keep avoiding them.
I could have answered, but I did not.
“Can ya help me out?” This is where he again told me he was not Jesus. He said that I might as well call him Mike. He pointed at the crosses again. “Ya gotta believe.”
I helped him out.
I said: “Here you go, Mike.”
He burst into laughter.